At our prior two companies, Moosejaw and CrowdRise, our leadership team was involved in our entire board process…from preparation through joining the live board meetings. It was really great for everyone. I think. During the live meetings, our board liked getting to know our leadership team, and our team liked getting to banter with the board.
I used to get my haircut at random places. I’d just walk into a place and ask if anyone had an opening for a quick haircut.
But, in trying to get more people involved with board prep and board meetings, it’s fair to say that we made every mistake possible.
When the haircut person inevitably asked me what I did for work, I usually made up some sort of story that was more interesting than my real life. Better for everyone, right?
Here are some quick thoughts so you do it way better than we did…
1) If you’re going to have your leadership team join your board meetings, it’s especially crucial to get your board materials to your board early. That way your board members can chime in with questions and comments prior to your live meeting, giving everyone on your team a chance to be further prepared. This is true even if you don’t have your leadership team join, by the way.
For example, if a board member leaves a comment asking your CRO for some data about sales by channel, your CRO can get the info in advance instead of dealing with the chaos of looking for the numbers and feeling awful about everything in the world in the midst of a live meeting.
Side note…Zeck’s Smart Comment feature is superior to anything else out there. Sorry for being so mean to all the other anything else’s. Not that sorry though. Our commenting system is worth seeing and using. Brash.
Well, a couple years ago I went to a haircut place that was pretty close to my house. I told the haircut person (let’s call her Morgan) that I was a wilderness guide and took people on mountaineering expeditions all over the world. I could talk the talk enough for that to seem real. Well, Morgan did a lovely job on my hair and the place was nearby so I decided to keep going back to her.
2) Nearly every board deck I see includes nothing but positive updates. Inevitably, the first and second (and third) questions asked in these live board meetings are tell me something bad or what’s bothering you right now?
So, definitely get ahead of it by making sure your leadership team a) includes some info in their content that isn’t so great and b) adds something about their most significant challenge.
Side note…Zeck’s (customizable) framework includes prompts to help guide your team through this process. When you’re in your live meeting, it’ll be way better for you to spend time discussing your “Lowlights” and “What’s Keeping Me Up at Night” as opposed to just your Highlights. That way, your board will actually have a chance to help you.
Obviously after telling Morgan that I was a guide, when I went back for a second haircut, I couldn’t change up my story…she would think I was insane for fabricating a new life for myself.
So, I had just gotten back from Aconcagua. Same for all my haircuts for the following couple years. Denali, Elbrus, Killy, etc. I was either training or had just gotten back. I really embraced the role.
3) Mark Twain said “I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”
Encourage anyone contributing content to keep everything concise, lose all those complicated infographics that no one looks at, and just surface the information that your board is actually going to care about.
Side note…if you want to let board members dig into more details, use links. Like a website. Zeck isn’t a deck. It’s a mobile-optimized, beautifully branded site. And so so easy to build and consume. Okay back to it.
4) This is the probably best note. Should have made it #1 but Joe Dumars and C Webb are favorites so I’ll keep it at #4. Board meetings aren’t presentations. Or at least they shouldn’t be. There’s nothing worse than someone just reading their content to the board. It’s so ridiculously boring and wastes everyone’s time. But unfortunately this seems to be the norm. Zeck solves it all for you.
And, here’s just one additional idea to embrace as soon as you can. Perhaps even immediately.
Start by asking your board if they have any specific questions. If they don’t, definitely be prepared with your own questions and, again, focus on your challenges. This is how you drive engagement and get real value out of your board. Please let us know if you want to talk more about this.
Well, everything went off the rails a week ago…
My brother was in town and decided to get his haircut. He went into a completely random place and asked if anyone had an opening.
Of course the random place he walked into was my spot and, obviously, Morgan had an opening.
I know…too coincidental but a hundred percent true.
5) Everyone on our team committed to a few initiatives as a part of our board process. Setting those milestones for the board was (sort of) the way we ran our companies. I won’t get into all that right now though.
Everyone on your team doesn’t need to update the board about whether or not they solved every initiative on their list from the prior board meeting. But, definitely make sure your team is ready to talk through it all if asked.
When I’m on a board now, I always check the prior board meeting materials and review the projects the team was planning to attack and, if I think it’ll be helpful, I’ll ask about it. Meanest board member ever probably.
For example, if your CMO talked about a plan to launch a TV campaign at the prior board meeting, you want her to be able to talk about the success/failure if anyone asks about it in the live meeting.
My brother and I look almost identical (so lucky for me) and through the course of his haircut and conversation with Morgan it came to light that we’re brothers and that I’d been lying to her for the past two years.
6) There is no number six
Morgan reached out to me. She thought I was quite crazy. I explained the hole that I had dug myself into on day one but she wasn’t accepting it.
I had a really nice haircut thing going but I won’t be going back to Morgan anytime soon and my hair is going to look awful forever. Just goes to show…you’re better off never leaving the house.
I’m thinking that I should stop typing now.
Thanks so much.
Decent Humans of Zeck